Recipe for a Sustainable Neighbourhood


The “Duurzame Wijk” is a housing project commissioned by Wienerberger and situated in the centre of Waregem (Belgium). The aim was to make a real sustainable project, working with an architect and a constructor who aren’t specialists in sustainability. 3E was appointed team manager and economically, ecologically and socially screened the whole project, also assisting the team from the first sketches to the last pencil stroke on the walls. Every aspect was planned: from the implantation, the water use to the monitoring of the construction costs.


Implantation of the buildings, biodiversity and use of water

The project was planned on an existing plot in an urban area and strongly based on the densification of existing areas in order to maintain the open spaces around it. The existing biodiversity was protected and reinforced by the creation of a common park for the seven dwellings.

As the goal was to extend nature’s reach, more species were introduced on the plot and the existing trees were kept. The user comfort and the improved water infiltration to spare the sewage system and reduce the use of drinking water offered an ecologic win-win situation, as the cost of maintenance diminished.

The site was also chosen near facilities in order to make the use of soft transports and public transport easy and give an incentive to use the bike instead of the car.

Low-impact materials and low energy construction

All the materials were chosen in function of their ecologic properties, but also with attention for the right material at the right place. Trying to build in an optimal way. Ceramic products provide a low impact and a great mass. They are also economical and have a very long life cycle. The clay was won in the region, so even on the transport, it appeared to be a great choice.

The energy that could be saved through the compact design came from green energy by providing solar panels.


One of the main objectives was to provide a comfortable and healthy living. Thermal and acoustic comfort were a priority. But also the insight air, the progressive planning and the accessibility were consciously planned. Dynamic modelling was made for those Zero-energy dwellings and overheating was banned with robust and smart solutions. Gains and losses of heat and light were compared and an optimal design was made. Ceramic materials provided good inertia, humidity balance and very good acoustics.

Optimal cost

The cost is essential to develop a sustainable project. If the dwellings aren’t affordable, then they cannot be considered as socially sustainable. The costs were monitored each time a choice had to be made: from the election of the plot, to the implantation of the houses, to the construction method and the used techniques.

All possible techniques (thermal and electric) where considered: independently, as an individual element or a collective installation, and in function of their impact on the rest of the concept. The opportunity to have a 100% share of renewables or 50% was also evaluated.

The following graphic gives an idea of the complexity of the study.


Following parameters were taken into account:

• Investments (CAPEX)
• Energy bill on a yearly base (OPEX)
• Total cost after 30 years (TAK)
• CO2-impact
• Primary energy use
• Net energy use
• Reaction time heating
• Departure temperature heating
• Complexity of regulation